GARDNERVILLE RANCHOS - Black bands marked the doors of Engine No. 77 on Saturday as it led family, friends and comrades of Bruce Nystrom, longtime Ranchos Fire volunteer, in a memorial procession through the Carson Valley.
Through much of Nystrom's 22 years as a volunteer, he drove the engine to fires, then operated the valves on its stainless steel control panel to direct water and foam through the hoses. When they talked of retiring old No. 77, Nystrom made sure the Pierce-brand engine remained in service.
Nystrom died Nov. 8, a day shy of his 56th birthday, a victim of cancer.
Saturday, Mary Jean "MJ" Nystrom held her husband's uniform as she rode in the cab of Engine 77, leading 27 pieces of fire equipment from several departments and a dozen private vehicles.
One crank of the siren and three blasts of the horn signaled the beginning of the memorial, then the procession moved silently through the ranchos, west to Foothill Road, back through Minden and Gardnerville to the Ranchos Volunteer fire Department Station on Jobs Peak.
Nystrom's father, Herb, son-in-law Michael Salmon and three-year-old grandson Austin Salmon also boarded Engine 77 for the memorial ride. Daughters Melissa Salmon and Gretchen Nystrom, son Eric Nystrom and grandson Austin Salmon, age one, were also chauffeured in the hour-long procession.
"It was very moving and absolutely beautiful and more than anyone could have expected," MJ Nystrom said afterward. "Bruce would have been so proud.
"He would have stood with his mouth open that all this was for him, because he was such a humble man."
At the Ranchos fire station, where a sign proclaimed the fire volunteers' motto of "Neighbors serving Neighbors" and a flag flew at half-staff, fire department Chief Gary Powers said the district retired Nystrom's rank, first engineer, upon his death.
"Bruce was a kind, outstanding man," Powers said. He said Nystrom had been president of the Ranchos Fire and Rescue District for 20 years. He was the district training officer, as well.
Nystrom also served as president of the Gardnerville Ranchos General Improvement District. In the months before his death, newspaper accounts of district meetings quoted Nystrom as saying that Ranchos residents themselves, rather than the district board, should have the say whether the Ranchos should be renamed and whether a slot machine business should be allowed in the former Gorman's Rancho Market.